Special Paper – Scotland Europa members’ response to Fitness Check of EU Nature Legislation

This response brings together the input from our membership, a large part of which takes a key interest in environment policy, as it represents government agencies as well as regulated industry, land owners, research and academia and environmental NGOs. Bearing in mind the wide and diverse reach of our organisation, this submission should not be seen as a position paper representing the lowest common denominator – it is rather a collection of evidence from Scotland and our actors involved in and impacted by EU nature legislation.

This consultation exercise has indeed been useful for us in Scotland as an opportunity to sit down and reflect and share experiences on what has worked well, less well, and to what extent existing policy and legislative tools allow us to effectively bridge any challenges together.

Our joint members’ response outlines where there is a shared members’ view and narrative to contribute to the EU-level gathering of evidence, as well as where individual members have specific and differing opinions. Some of our member organisations have also submitted individual responses to this consultation.

The contribution outlines the main evidence from the Scotland Europa membership, as organised according to the five criteria of the REFIT exercise: Effectiveness, Efficiency, Relevance, Coherence, and EU Added Value.

In summary, the key cross-membership messages from this submission are:

  • The nature Directives have successfully slowed the loss of some habitats and species, but they are not wholly addressing the wider decline of nature, its underlying causes, or the restoration of ecosystem health. That said, the Directives are instrumental to protecting certain aspects of the European environment, upon which the European economy depends.
  • There has been considerable success in setting up protected areas and the conservation of specific habitat and species features within them, but, with the exceptions where larger Natura 2000 sites have been designated, the Directives have not been implemented in a way that has resulted in a policy or legal framework for the protection and restoration of (all) nature on a larger landscape scale, particularly outwith the confines of Natura 2000 sites.
  • There is an urgent need for better policy integration. The main incoherence we are facing is not emanating from the Directives themselves, but rather a lack of consideration of the objectives of the Directives in the wider European policy framework in which they interact, in relation to climate change, land use and marine planning, transport, agriculture, energy, health etc.
  • Europe needs to raise its collective public awareness of nature and the benefits it provides. There are currently too many people thinking that nature is something you visit, rather than something we live in. We need to better understand that we live alongside nature, and that nature and economic activity are co- and inter-dependant. For that to materialise, we need to consider nature, and the Directives, at the earliest possible stage of planning new policies and projects.